Red Planet Mars Not So Red Beneath Surface

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The Red Planet’s signature color is only skin deep.

NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity drilled 2.5 inches into a Red Planet outcrop called “John Klein” earlier this month, revealing rock that’s decidedly gray rather than the familiar rusty orange of the Martian surface.

“We’re sort of seeing a new coloration for Mars here, and it’s an exciting one to us,” Joel Hurowitz, sampling system scientist for Curiosity at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif., told reporters Wednesday (Feb. 20).

Mars gets its red coloration from a surface layer of dust that has undergone a rusting process, during which iron was oxidized.

Curiosity’s hammering drill allows scientists to peer beneath that dusty veneer for the first time ever, and the early views at John Klein — where the rover performed its first full-up drilling and sample-collection operation — are intriguing, rover team members said.

Written By: Space.com
continue to source article at news.discovery.com

25 COMMENTS

  1. The dust coatings should be no surprise. There are seasonal dust storms, as winds blow sublimating CO2 from pole to pole. There have also been incidences of dust covering the solar cells on rovers, and the wind subsequently bowing the dust off again.

    Engineering data from Spirit’s power subsystem indicated that some dust blew off the rover’s solar array on the following day, Sol 1812 (February 6, 2009). Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech . . . . . . . .
    Alt Text

    The cleaning boosts Spirit’s daily energy supply by about 30 watt-hours, to about 240 watt-hours from 210 watt-hours. The rover uses about 180 watt-hours per day for basic survival and communications, so this increase roughly doubles the amount of discretionary power for activities such as driving and using instruments. http://www.nasa.gov/mission-pages/mer/news/mer-20090212.html

  2. In reply to #2 by Big Gus:

    Does the “rust” tell us anything about the presence of O2 at some point Alan?

    It says there’s a vast store of oxygen all over the planet, you just have to separate it from whatever it’s bonded to.

  3. In reply to #2 by Big Gus:

    Does the “rust” tell us anything about the presence of O2 at some point Alan?

    Probably not free oxygen. Earth did not have a free oxygen atmosphere until photosynthesis evolved, and even then it locally combined with iron dissolved in seas to give our present iron ore deposits for a long time before building up.

    There is plenty of oxygen around the Solar System and on Mars, but it is combined with carbon, hydrogen etc.

    On the surface of Mars, carbon dioxide and water are both solid ices or atmospheric vapours. There seem to be some signs of traces of liquid water on sun-facing slopes at some times of year.
    Given the temperatures and pressures, these are probably concentrated salt solutions formed from melting ice, which may have produced salt concentrations by sublimation.

  4. I love how Mars reveals our ignorance. We dismiss it as a desert, we land and a freakin’ tire track shows water. Now that we have literally scratched the surface a couple inches… oh, it’s superficial rusting not geologic. It seems planets can have dye jobs. Looking at the planet I mused where I might send probes. I clicked a button to see that’s exactly where NASA sent the Viking missions… exactly the wrong places to go. Our initial intuitions about Mars are completely wrong. We know nothing. It’s so cool.

  5. You put it perfectly, I am continually looking for things that I don’t understand or know anything about. What’s the point of being content with what you know? In reply to #7 by This Is Not A Meme:

    I love how Mars reveals our ignorance. We dismiss it as a desert, we land and a freakin’ tire track shows water. Now that we have literally scratched the surface a couple inches… oh, it’s superficial rusting not geologic. It seems planets can have dye jobs. Looking at the planet I mused where I might send probes. I clicked a button to see that’s exactly where NASA sent the Viking missions… exactly the wrong places to go. Our initial intuitions about Mars are completely wrong. We know nothing. It’s so cool.

  6. In reply to #7 by This Is Not A Meme:

    I love how Mars reveals our ignorance. We dismiss it as a desert, we land and a freakin’ tire track shows water. Now that we have literally scratched the surface a couple inches… oh, it’s superficial rusting not geologic. It seems planets can have dye jobs. Looking at the planet I mused where I might send probes. I clicked a button to see that’s exactly where NASA sent the Viking missions… exactly the wrong places to go. Our initial intuitions about Mars are completely wrong. We know nothing. It’s so cool.

    Imagine how amazing it would be if the space probes discovered fossil evidence of life on the planet Mars, dating back to when it had water on its surface. How revolutionary would this find be not just to the biological sciences, but to everybody. Perhaps extremophile bacteria still inhabit the underground world, or maybe macroscopic life has left deposits in the sedimentary rocks hidden below the iron oxide layer.

    I don’t mind if it never happens, and in the absence of evidence I have to admit it probably won’t, but Mars is potentially filled with many more secrets awaiting discovery, and we’ve barely scratched the surface.

  7. I don’t think colour matters any which way if a significant methane signature is registered over the next year or so.

    Then we might have a whole new board game called spot the Martians !

    Well a geek can dream ;-)

  8. In reply to #9 by Zeuglodon:

    Imagine how amazing it would be if the space probes discovered fossil evidence of life on the planet Mars, dating back to when it had water on its surface.

    Talking of water, you may realise that the plains are probably frozen seas or lakes, covered with millennia of dust layers. Water on Mars ( and in much of the outer Solar System), is a rock.

    BTW; Somebody is likely to raise manned exploration, so I will mention this leading study for a science base on the edge of the north polar ice-cap..
    http://www.bis-space.com/products-page/books/project-boreas-a-station-for-the-martian-geographic-north-pole/

    and the video: -
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m-n343rNQdo

    I suppose I should declare an interest in BIS projects.

    Alan FBIS.

  9. I believe it’s criminal that we haven’t put people on Mars. If only machines are allowed to go then all the data they discover can be denied by those who profit most by our ignorance or they can simply be turned off and discarded. Real people could make dramatic discoveries at a dramatic pace and be very hard to discount if they find inconvenient things to be true. I’m not pointing any fingers or even saying that any one group of people who exert influence in government policy might have reason to keep certain ideas from being proven, I’m just saying it’s possible

  10. In reply to #12 by Alan4discussion:

    In reply to #9 by Zeuglodon:

    Imagine how amazing it would be if the space probes discovered fossil evidence of life on the planet Mars, dating back to when it had water on its surface.

    Talking of water, you may realise that the plains are probably frozen seas or lakes, covered with millennia of dust layers. Water on Mars ( and in much of the outer Solar System), is a rock.

    You mean there are frozen lakes on Mars, or that the water molecules are scattered within the rock layers? I knew the ice caps on the planet had water locked up, but I’ve not heard of such a claim as yours before. Of course, when I typed about the time when Mars had water, I meant when the water was in liquid form and had eroded much of the Martian surface.

    BTW; Somebody is likely to raise manned exploration, so I will mention this leading study for a science base on the edge of the north polar ice-cap..
    http://www.bis-space.com/products-page/books/project-boreas-a-station-for-the-martian-geographic-north-pole/

    and the video: -
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m-n343rNQdo

    I suppose I should declare an interest in BIS projects.

    Alan FBIS.

    Who can deny that space travel is the way of the future? A base on a solar system body other than Earth would be the next step in that direction, and it’s great there’s an initiative in the works.

    That said, I suspect that it would take years (if not decades) to come to fruition. :-(

  11. In reply to #14 by Zeuglodon:

    In reply to #12 by Alan4discussion

    Talking of water, you may realise that the plains are probably frozen seas or lakes, covered with millennia of dust layers. Water on Mars ( and in much of the outer Solar System), is a rock.

    You mean there are frozen lakes on Mars, or that the water molecules are scattered within the rock layers? I knew the ice caps on the planet had water locked up, but I’ve not heard of such a claim as yours before.

    Here is some more detail:-

    Water on Mars exists almost exclusively as water ice. The Martian polar ice caps consist primarily of water ice, and further ice is contained in Martian surface rocks at more temperate latitudes (permafrost). A small amount of water vapor is present in the atmosphere.[1] There are no bodies of liquid water on the Martian surface.

    Current conditions on the planet surface do not support the long-term existence of liquid water. The average atmospheric pressure and temperature are far too low, leading to immediate freezing and resulting sublimation. Despite this, research suggests that in the past there was liquid water flowing on the surface,[2][3] creating large areas similar to Earth’s oceans.[4][5][6][7] According to Steve Squyres, Principal investigator of the Mars Exploration Rover Missions (MER): “The idea [of liquid water on Mars has] been resolved. It’s been resolved by Spirit, it’s been resolved by Opportunity, it’s been resolved by Curiosity, it’s been amply resolved from orbit as well.”[8]

    There are a number[9] of direct and indirect proofs of water’s presence either on or under the surface, e.g. stream beds,[10][11][12] polar caps, spectroscopic measurement,[13] eroded craters or minerals directly connected to the existence of liquid water (such as goethite), grey, crystalline hematite, phyllosilicates, opal,[14] and sulfate.[15][16] With the improved cameras on advanced Mars orbiters such as Viking, Mars Odyssey, Mars Global Surveyor, Mars Express, and the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter pictures of ancient lakes,[17][18][19][20][21][21][22][23] ancient river valleys,[10][24] and widespread glaciation[25][26][27][28][29] have accumulated. Besides the visual confirmation of water from a huge collection of images, an orbiting Gamma Ray Spectrometer found ice just under the surface of much of the planet.[30][31] Also, radar studies discovered pure ice in formations that were thought to be glaciers.[32][33][34][35][36][37] The Phoenix lander exposed ice as it landed, watched chunks of ice disappear,[38][39][40] detected snow falling,[41] and even saw drops of liquid water.[42][43][44]

    Today, it is generally believed that Mars had abundant water very early in its history[45] during which snow and rain fell on the planet and created rivers, lakes, and possibly oceans.[46][47][48] Large clay deposits were produced. Life may even have come into existence. Large areas of liquid water have disappeared, but climate changes have frequently deposited large amounts of water-rich materials in mid-latitudes.[49][50][51][52] From these materials, glaciers and other forms of frozen ground came to be. Small amounts of water probably melt on steep slopes from time to time and produce gullies.[53][54] Recent images have also detected yearly changes on some slopes that may have been caused by liquid water.[55][56] Although Mars is very cold at present, water could exist as a liquid if it contains salts.[57] Salt is expected to be on the Martian surface – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Water-on-Mars

    Mars Pathfinder

    Pathfinder found temperatures varied on a diurnal cycle. It was coldest just before sunrise (about −78 Celsius) and warmest just after Mars noon (about −8 Celsius). These extremes occurred near the ground which both warmed up and cooled down fastest. At this location, the highest temperature never reached the freezing point of water (0 °C), so Mars Pathfinder confirmed that where it landed it is too cold for liquid water to exist. However, water could exist as a liquid if it were mixed with various salts.[92]

    Surface pressures varied diurnally over a 0.2 millibar range, but showed 2 daily minima and two daily maxima. The average daily pressure decreased from about 6.75 millibars to a low of just under 6.7 millbars, corresponding to when the maximum amount of carbon dioxide had condensed on the south pole. The pressure on the Earth is generally close to 1000 millibars, so the pressure on Mars is very low. The pressures measured by Pathfinder would not permit water or ice to exist on the surface. But, if ice were insulated with a layer of soil, it could last a long time.

  12. In reply to #14 by Zeuglodon:

    Just to add this from the same Wiki link:-

    Equatorial frozen sea

    Surface features consistent with pack ice have been discovered in the southern Elysium Planitia.[165] What appear to be plates of broken ice, ranging in size from 30 m to 30 km, are found in channels leading to a flooded area of approximately the same depth and width as the North Sea. The plates show signs of break up and rotation that clearly distinguish them from lava plates elsewhere on the surface of Mars. The source for the flood is thought to be the nearby geological fault Cerberus Fossae which spewed water as well as lava aged some 2 to 10 million years. It was suggested that the water exited the Cerberus Fossae then pooled and froze in the low, level plains.[166] Not all scientists agree with these conclusions.

  13. Dear Jon. You say, “…spot the Martian”. Should that not be, “…spot the cave dwelling Martian central heating vents?” ;) At the moment I’m helping ‘Planet Four’ classify their 4 million MRO pixs of the southern polar region of Mars – along with 66,000 other Mars geeks. Though, I’m not a huge ‘fan’. m
    _
    In reply to #10 by Jon Snow:_

    “Welcome to Planet Four, a citizen science project designed to help planetary scientists identify and measure features on the surface of Mars . . . the likes of which don’t exist on Earth. All of the images on this site depict the southern polar region, an area of Mars that we know little about, and the majority of which have never been seen by human eyes before!
    Figure 1. HiRISE image is ~1 km across. Spiders and fans are visible. Figure 2
    What am I looking for?

    We need your help to find and mark ‘fans’ and ‘blotches’ on the Martian surface. Scientists believe that these features indicate wind direction and speed. By tracking ‘fans’ and ‘blotches’ over the course of several Martian years to see how they form, evolve, disappear and reform, we can help planetary scientists better understand Mars’ climate. We also hope to find out if these features form in the same spot each year and also learn how they change”.

    I don’t think colour matters any which way if a significant methane signature is registered over the next year or so.

    Then we might have a whole new board game called spot the Martians !

    Well a geek can dream ;-)

  14. In reply to #17 by memetical:

    At the moment I’m helping ‘Planet Four’ classify their 4 million MRO pixs of the southern polar region of Mars – along with 66,000 other Mars geeks. Though, I’m not a huge ‘fan’. m

    There are some very worthwhile projects encouraging wider public participation in astronomy and planetary exploration – like http://blog.planetfour.org/ and http://jhelioviewer.org/index.html

    In reply to #10 by Jon Snow:_

    I don’t think colour matters any which way if a significant methane signature is registered over the next year or so.

    Just a couple of points here:

    • Colour is a key feature of Spectroscopy, which satellite / rover instruments use to analyse the chemistry of planetary materials.

    • There is lots of methane flying around in the outer Solar System. Titan has lakes and rivers of it.
      http://www.astrobio.net/interview/1413/does-titan-rain-methane It degrades quicker on Mars, but there appears to be a mechanism releasing methane from the interiors of cooler rocky planets and moons.

  15. In reply to #18 by Alan4discussion:

    Colour is a key feature of Spectroscopy, which satellite / rover instruments use to analyse the chemistry of planetary materials.

    Oh absolutely, and as such gives vital clues into the chemistry and underlying physics of the material.
    My point is not a geological one per se, more one of the greatest scientific discovery since man worked out how to amble on his back legs!

    I have been one of the folks that rather regard Viking as having scored a bullseye in the mid 80′s.

    I doubt the ‘residual cleaning fluid’ meme because I rather think NASA, for all its perceived operational short comings, did not stint on craft preparation.
    I do not think they would have made that elementary mistake …simples!

    The instruments, although cutting edge back then, were still a blunt sword and absolutely nowhere near the suite that adorns Curiosity today that do require calibration and have chambers that do require a sluicing out, because of their innate sensitivity.

    This comes back to my take on the Viking farago…
    I think they got a reading that was not expected by the majority of personnel working on the project.
    I remember, although admittedly vaguely, that most lead project managers had basically dismissed the possibility before Viking was actually launched.
    The reading shook them all and they immediately suspected error or malfunction.

    Seems that Phoenix data supports the Viking data in so much as it unequivocally provided a chemical pathway that ‘might’ have rendered the Viking reading as legitimate after all.

    There is lots of methane flying around in the outer Solar System. Titan has lakes and rivers of it.
    http://www.astrobio.net/interview/1413/does-titan-rain-methane It degrades quicker on Mars, but there appears to be a mechanism releasing methane from the interiors of cooler rocky planets and moons.

    Indeed, but what exactly, that is the question.

    And why should a geological phenomena produce such a seemingly cyclic manifestation on Mars?
    I am in no way a geologist but on a inert geological planet it seems that explanation is possibly beyond earthly experience and most definitely scientific knowledge if indeed it is a geological quirk.

    A critter emerging from a long winter’s hibernation by a warming regolith is a tantalizing prospect.

    My personal favourite because I am biassed being a geek!

    Although I would accept a a more mundane source, the biological one seems to be a far stronger contender in this case.

    memetical @ 17

    Yes I saw that project a while back. at the moment I am doing the galactic classification at https://www.zooniverse.org/

    And before that the SETI project ticked over in the background.

    But I got a cranky computer and the apps tended to slow other processes, eventually is was slower then a snail with lumbago.

    But I will check the site out for sure….cheers!

  16. In reply to #19 by Jon Snow:
    Hi Jon,

    I have been one of the folks that rather regard Viking as having scored a bullseye in the mid 80′s.

    I doubt the ‘residual cleaning fluid’ meme because I rather think NASA, for all its perceived operational short comings, did not stint on craft preparation.
    I do not think they would have made that elementary mistake …simples!

    Much as I would like to be optimistic, and commend NASA on its great achievements, it has been noted for some VERY elementary expensive mistakes!

    Like this one:-

    Mars Surveyor ’98 program http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MarsSurveyor_%2798_program

    The orbiter was lost due to a miscalculation in trajectory caused by an unintended and undetected mismatch between metric and English units of measurement. The use of metric units as well as the data formats to employ were specified in a navigation software interface specification (SIS) published by JPL in 1996. Despite this, the flight operations team at Lockheed Martin provided impulse data in English units of pound-force seconds rather than newton seconds. These values were incorrect by a factor of 4.45 (1 lbf = 4.45 N). This caused erroneous course corrections that caused the orbiter to descend too low in Mars’s atmosphere. The vehicle either burned up or bounced off into space.

    The Mars Surveyor 1998 program spacecraft development cost US$193.1 million. Launch costs for the Mars surveyor 98’ program was estimated at US $91.7 million and mission operations at US $42.8 million.

    ..

    And why should a geological phenomena produce such a seemingly cyclic manifestation on Mars?
    I am in no way a geologist but on a inert geological planet it seems that explanation is possibly beyond earthly experience and most definitely scientific knowledge if indeed it is a geological quirk.

    The whole seasonal climate changes on Mars are cyclical, with winds from the sublimation of CO2 ice carrying dust from North to South poles and then freezing out to CO2 snow again, before the process is reversed as the seasons progress.

    A critter emerging from a long winter’s hibernation by a warming regolith is a tantalizing prospect.

    Indeed it would be, but “warming” is a relative term on Mars, where the temperature does not rise to 0°c.

    My personal favourite because I am biassed being a geek!

    Although I would accept a a more mundane source, the biological one seems to be a far stronger contender in this case.

    We can’t know until solid evidence comes in, but I am personally doubtful if any active life forms exist on Mars at present. Seasonal gas venting from below ground, as with CO2, seems more likely.

  17. @ Jon Snow

    …being a geek

    I’m kind of a geek about music :)

    The BBC’s Symphony Orchestra’s rendition of Mars pleases my ears!

    Also, the music chosen for Viking’s ‘golden record’ is interesting. I would tweak it a bit, but there it is :D

  18. In reply to #20 by Alan4discussion:

    Much as I would like to be optimistic, and commend NASA on its great achievements, it has been noted for some VERY elementary expensive mistakes!

    Yes indeed that was a howler, but it was one of the first interplanetary projects that combined ESA and NASA in the planning…it was elementary and came from SI unit confusion…a point that early solo NASA shenanigans did not really suffer from.

    No excuse of course when the price tab was in the millions, but understandable, just!

    The whole seasonal climate changes on Mars are cyclical, with winds from the sublimation of CO2 ice carrying dust from North to South poles and then freezing out to CO2 snow again, before the process is reversed as the seasons progress.

    That is true but would the cyclic seasonal actually effect the geological structure to release such a gas?…I suppose ice plugs might melt and release underground sinks but where and what manufactured the Methane in such quantities?

    Indeed it would be, but “warming” is a relative term on Mars, where the temperature does not rise to 0°c

    Well Curiosity has seen temps climb to a positively balmy +6* C and is a regular daytime measurement (about half the the Martian Sol’s have registered such a hothouse day temp) and that is in the late winter season at Gale…that has apparently puzzled a few heads at mission control.
    But night time is a deep freeze and a quarter still…

    We can’t know until solid evidence comes in, but I am personally doubtful if any active life forms exist on Mars at present. Seasonal gas venting from below ground, as with CO2, seems more likely.

    No indeed that is a fact, I expect that the jigsaw will slip into place sooner rather then later.
    It is certainly a venting but why?
    What is going on that manufactures the gas that gets vented?

    That is the mystery, to be honest it is probably to much of a stretch to expect an actual life form, but even so microbiological or lichen is an intriguing possibility that cannot be discounted as yet.

  19. In reply to #23 by Jon Snow:

    The whole seasonal climate changes on Mars are cyclical, with winds from the sublimation of CO2 ice carrying dust from North to South poles and then freezing out to CO2 snow again, before the process is reversed as the seasons progress.

    That is true but would the cyclic seasonal actually effect the geological structure to release such a gas?…I suppose ice plugs might melt and release underground sinks but where and what manufactured the Methane in such quantities?

    If you look further down the page on the “Planet Four” link @18, there are whole loads of features being mapped where gas (presumably mainly CO2) is being vented from the subsurface because of solar heating through transparent ice.

    Indeed it would be, but “warming” is a relative term on Mars, where the temperature does not rise to 0°c

    Well Curiosity has seen temps climb to a positively balmy +6* C and is a regular daytime measurement (about half the the Martian Sol’s have registered such a hothouse day temp) and that is in the late winter season at Gale…that has apparently puzzled a few heads at mission control.

    There are local hot-spots on the sun-facing slopes of inside crater walls where some signs of melt water have been found.

    But night time is a deep freeze and a quarter still…

    There are more usual figures on the “Pathfinder” quote @18.

    At the poles there are very extreme temperatures which cause the CO2 snow to freeze out of the atmosphere in “winter”.

    We can’t know until solid evidence comes in, but I am personally doubtful if any active life forms exist on Mars at present. Seasonal gas venting from below ground, as with CO2, seems more likely.

    No indeed that is a fact, I expect that the jigsaw will slip into place sooner rather then later.
    It is certainly a venting but why?
    What is going on that manufactures the gas that gets vented?

    I don’t know if anyone knows at present.

    That is the mystery, to be honest it is probably to much of a stretch to expect an actual life form, but even so microbiological or lichen is an intriguing possibility that cannot be discounted as yet.

    Microbes are just possible, Lichen as as complex pair of symbiotic organisms is unlikely.

    As impact ejecta can be thrown off planets and land on others as meteorites, it is possible that microbes could have come from Earth, or vice-versa, but Earth looks a much more likely source of an environment conducive to abiogenesis than elsewhere in the Solar System.

    There have been a number of earlier discussions on Mars and space:-

    http://www.richarddawkins.net/news-articles/2012/9/27/mars-curiosity-rover-finds-proof-of-flowing-water-a-first#

    http://old.richarddawkins.net/discussions/566999-why-mars-can-t-wait

    http://old.richarddawkins.net/articles/646046-mars-has-life-s-building-blocks

    http://old.richarddawkins.net/articles/646356-mars-has-oceans-of-water-inside

    http://old.richarddawkins.net/discussions/646684-celebrating-curiosity-on-twitter

    http://old.richarddawkins.net/articles/646680-mars-science-laboratory-touches-down-tonight

    http://www.richarddawkins.net/news-articles/2012/12/4/mars-rover-detects-simple-organic-compounds#

    http://old.richarddawkins.net/articles/644890-rare-martian-meteorite-given-to-science

    http://www.richarddawkins.net/news-articles/2013/1/12/help-wanted-astronauts-needed-for-mars-colony#

  20. There may be a whole new enormous hole in Mars if this one hits it! – Or maybe just a spectacular show for the rovers!

    http://newswatch.nationalgeographic.com/2013/03/06/monster-comet-may-have-mars-in-its-crosshairs/

    Mars may have a really bad day next year on October 19th. That’s when there is a very slight chance a newly discovered comet may impact our neighboring planet, says NASA.

    Comet C/2013 A1 (Siding Spring) was discovered by Australian Robert H. McNaught, a prolific comet and asteroid hunter just two months ago and NASA’s Near-Earth Object Program Office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory , in Pasadena, Calif., has been constantly refining the comet’s exact trajectory ever since.

    Latest orbital calculations have the icy visitor passing by Mars at only 31,000 miles (50,000 kilometers) – only two-and-a-half times the distance that the outer moon Deimos orbits.

    Astronomers watching the icy interloper predict that as more observations are accumulated over time, it’s more and more likely Mars is going to dodge the bullet and only get a close shave . The possibility of impact however has not been completely ruled out yet, says NASA, giving the comet a 1 in 600 chance of walloping the Red Planet.

    If Siding Spring would hit, the force of impact may truly be monumental. Based on observations to date the comet nucleus could be a real monster – as big as 9 miles (15 km) to 31 miles (50 km) wide. With it’s velocity clocked at 35 miles (56 km) per second, the energy force of the collision could be measured in the billions of megatons, resulting in a crater hundreds of miles wide. This could be an impact that rivals the one that wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago on our planet and would be bright enough to be even seen with the naked eye from Earth. (See “Russian Meteorite Spotlights History’s Other Crashes.”)

    Chances are however that it will just barely miss the planet, but comet Siding Spring may still become visible through binoculars and backyard scopes for us Earthlings in the Southern Hemisphere around mid-September 2014. It should also produce quite a sky show as seen from the surface of Mars. (See: New Comet Discovered—May Become “One of Brightest in History”)

    Current brightness magnitudes estimate that the comet will be very bright to even the digital eyes of the two working Mars rovers – Opportunity and Curiosity. Can hardly wait to see the amazing photos from these intrepid robotic explorers!

    So it will definitely be worth watching what the comet does in the coming weeks and months- whether it impacts Mars or not.

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